New Zealand entrepreneurs are some of the key players behind a culinary incubator in Beijing that allows would-be restaurateurs to test dining concepts in the Chinese market.
Founded by Kiwi Alex Worker and his British business partner Stew Johnson, Hatchery opened in the trendy Sanlitun district at the start of this year. Temporary restaurants can be established in the space, which seats 120 people, to see whether the offering tickles the fancy of Beijing diners.
"What we are, first and foremost, is a platform to help either entrepreneurs or companies validate, test and hopefully grow from," said Worker, son of Carl Worker, former New Zealand ambassador to China.
He said the incubator offered a cost-effective way to test concepts.
"A big issue for entrepreneurs is finding a location, and in Beijing that's increasingly expensive," Worker said.
"They can either rent off us and get the support of our team, or we hit them for equity, but they always retain control of their concept."
Prior to establishing Hatchery, Worker and Johnson ran pop-up restaurants in the Chinese capital, including a Peruvian pisco and ceviche joint called Buena Onda, which operated in the evenings at Beijing's Cafe Flat White.
The pair also came up with the first concept to open at Hatchery, called Mighty Mo's, which specialises in New Zealand green-lipped mussels.
"We're marketing a destination and building a community around Hatchery of people that like going there to eat and drink. At the moment we're doing our own concepts to prove ourselves to the market."
He said Mighty Mo's also served local Beijing craft beers and New Zealand beers including Tuatara, Epic and 8 Wired, as well as Kiwi wine.
Hatchery's food director is New Zealander Dave Ball, who was previously involved with the Wishbone salad and sandwich chain.
Worker said Beijing consumers, especially millenials, were keen to try out restaurant concepts from different parts of the world. "They might have travelled to Paris, Chicago or Auckland. That's where we saw the opportunity for Hatchery."
He said the incubator already had its first entrepreneur in residence.
"That's a test - he's an American guy who is doing cookies, craft breads and pies," Worker said. "The next one we've got coming in is a bartender who wants to do pre-made cocktails."